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Ding Dong The DoNs Are Dead!

PokerStars announced this morning that they will be getting rid of the Double or Nothing Sit n Gos on February 15, 2011.
PokerStars will no longer offer Double of Nothing Sit & Go Tournaments as of February 15th, 2011.

This is not a decision that was made easily as these tournaments have proven to be quite popular with players. However, after thorough evaluation, PokerStars has decided that the format needed improvement.

Newly introduced ‘Fifty50’ Sit & Go tournaments have been deployed to provide an alternative for players who have previously played the Double or Nothings. Fifty50s have many of the same attributes that attracted players to Double or Nothing tournaments:

• Half of the players who enter the tournament receive a payout
• The tournament ends when half of the players remain
• There is no shorthanded play
• They end quickly
• They have low rake

Fifty50s differ from Double or Nothings in their payout structure. Only half of the prize pool is distributed evenly amongst the top half of finishers. The other half is distributed based on chip count, with each chip having an equal value.

This difference means that players always have some incentive to care about the size of their chip stack, whereas in Double or Nothings this was not always the case. This added element makes the Fifty50s a more skilful and, to many, more interesting format.

The value of each chip in Fifty50s also makes situations where some players may softplay each other less attractive than in Double or Nothings. Some forms of poker invite this sort of implicit collusion more than others, as the rewards are greater and costs are smaller for making such plays. The Fifty50 format is an improvement over the Double or Nothing format in this regard as there is always a cost for a player to make a decision that doesn’t maximize the size of their own chip stack.

While it is understood that many players may miss the old Double or Nothing format, improvements and changes to game formats are necessary from time to time. While the loss of a familiar game format can be frustrating or annoying initially, PokerStars is confident that Fifty50s will prove to be a superior tournament format.

The rake structure is different for Fifty50s than for DoNs. It’s somewhat higher for Turbo Fifty50s than it was for Turbo DoNs at most stakes, but is lower at the $1 level. The rake for normal speed Fifty50s is significantly lower than it was for normal speed DoNs. The Double or Nothings offered rake that was in most cases twice as much for normal speed tournaments than for turbo tournaments. The Fifty50 rake is more in line with other PokerStars Sit & Go tournaments.

PokerStars is currently evaluating all Sit & Go offerings, including rake. The stakes offered and rake for Fifty50s are in line with the changes planned for all Sit & Go Tournaments on PokerStars in the coming months.

If players compare Fifty50 rake on PokerStars to the industry standard for similar Sit & Go tournaments, they will find that the comparison isn’t close; the PokerStars’ rake is much lower.
I'm not very happy about this news since I've been getting very into my Double or Nothing SnG Challenge. I've played a few of the new Fifty50 SnGs and I'm not too confident they will be a good replacement in terms of profitability. Especially in the long run. I'm not sure yet what this is going to mean for my DoN SnG Challenge.

There was a lot of speculation on the forums that the Fifty50's were going to replace DoNs because there had been so much cheating at the DoNs, especially with the big Chinese DoN cheating ring.

Based in part on the wording in the announcement as well as some other things I've read my guess is it's not so much the cheating as was the false reports of cheating.

PokerStars thoroughly investigates all reports of cheating. Because of some of the strategy involved in the Double or Nothing format some things may look like cheating, such as implicit collusion where two or more players may call a short stack's all-in on the bubble and check it down to try and knock them out.

Even though a lot of rake was generated by these games the time it took up for the fraud team must not have been worth it? At least that's my guess.

I'm really bummed out about it because I thought I'd have a real shot of making Supernova this year because of the amount of DoNs I play for my challenge. I wish they could have at least waited until the end of the month before killing these games since February is already a short month and I'm not sure if I'll be able to meet my VPP goal.

Daniel Negreanu Gearing Up For The Superstar Showdown vs Isildur1

Daniel 'KidPoker' Negreanu, known mainly as a live tournament pro, has been tearing it up online for the past year or so on PokerStars. Playing in the big tournaments, big NLHE cash games, micro stakes full ring NLHE, $5,500 heads up Sit & Gos and lately 4 tabling heads up $5/$10 no limit hold'em.

He's been posting on the 2+2 forums looking for opponents willing to play 2,500 hands heads up against him across 4 tables.

It can't be a coincidence that the Superstar Showdown against Viktor 'Isildur1' Blom consists of 4 tabling HU over 2,500 hands.
Hardly a secret, I'm a fan of Viktor "Isildur1" Blom and watching him play the SuperStar Showdown on PokerStars on Sundays has inspired me to see if I can get to the point where I feel like I could be a worthy challenger for him.
Blom made a big splash in the online poker world last year when he fearlessly took on some of the best poker players in the world running up millions of dollars in winnings but eventually losing it all but has come back in action as a PokerStars Pro.

While Negreanu hasn't confirmed he's going to take on Blom he did say he's testing his metal to see if he can mentally and physically keep up with a game which at around 400 hands per hours is far far away from the 1 table, 30 hands per hour face to face battles that he's played for most of his poker career.

Online play can be tougher but has some obvious perks. Like being able to play in your bathrobe. :) 

He recently posted his heads up results on his blog and I've added in some recent matches.

Opponent# HandsProfit
ZeeJustin *2,494$16,277.75REPLAY
Bonomo's numbers are a little off.

For years now forum posters, especially on 2+2, have been ragging on Negreanu's poker skills, especially after his losses on GSN's High Stakes Poker. A number of posters thought he wouldn't even be able to beat the $10/$20 NLHE online. Negreanu jumped in to defend himself and at the end a challenge was proposed where he would play 2+2 poster 2eazy (bmwmcoupe on PokerStars) in a series of heads up matches at $25/$50 NLHE. After 5,000 hands bmwmcoupe walked away with around $30,000 of Negreanu's money.

Winning 1/3rd of his previous losses back from bmwmcoupe in 1/2 the hands at 1/5th the stakes must have felt pretty good.

Before the 2009 match Negreanu posted response on 2+2 and on his forum.
What a lot of these guys don't get is that while playing 2-3 tables seems really easy to them, they grew up learning how to play poker that way and are comfortable splitting their focus between several games. I honestly have enough trouble focusing on ONE game online and picking up betting patterns, etc. that playing two or three games is very, very confusing to me and I can't keep up with the action. I get that all the kids multi-table, but I grew up playing poker a very different way.

When I grew up playing poker there was always a ton of information available on a player, not only before I sat down, but in between hands watching them eat (sounds weird but it's info!), hearing them talk, finding out more about them. The game was much slower obviously, so after playing only 30 hands I had so much more information on my opponents than I would if I played 30 hands online. Adding more tables online only makes it that much harder for me.

Many of them clearly underestimate how difficult it can be for a guy who's played live all of his life to get used to the idea that he is looking at little pictures instead of people and pressing buttons instead of using poker chips. My most valuable skill set is unavailable to me online and I'm not going to compound that problem by further confusing myself with even more little pictures and more buttons.
Negreanu also felt that if he put in the time and effort he could become a real contender on the virtual felt. After nearly 2 years of hard work his results seem to prove his statement true.

Coming up he worked hard at playing as well as promoting himself and the game. Constantly posting on the Internet and publishing articles in print media. His hard work has turned into enough success both as a player as well as a poker celebrity where he could continue to live a very good life without putting the effort he is in online poker. Between his tournaments, PokerVT, interviews, appearances, tv, movies, music videos and living his life, his schedule seems pretty packed which makes his dedication admirable. His renewed enthusiasm for the game is contagious and I've found myself playing more as a result.

Bonomo, bmwcoupe (and I believe FMyLife if I remember correctly) all had praise for Negreanu at the end of their matches commenting that he was a tough opponent.

Not too long ago players were lining up to get a piece of him and now a couple of the contenders quit him well before the 2,500 hand mark. Of the 3 players that did play all 2,500 hands only one profited against Negreanu, the other two lost more than 10 buy-ins.

Negreanu felt his toughest opponent so far was Randy 'Nanonoko' Lew, the first player to play the full 2,500 hands. He had this to say about the 24 tabling NLHE beast in his blog:
Playing against Nananoko was the best training I could ask for. He was five times faster than any other opponent I faced which forced me to not only time out a few times, but also led to a few misclicks. It's all part of the learning process, and I'm a big believer in going all out against the fastest competition I can find, because then when I play others, the pace will seem comfortable.

It's no different than a baseball player swinging five bats before he goes up to the plate, or a golfer taking some practice swings with a heavy club.

Nanonoko was also twice as aggressive pre-flop as anyone else I'd faced, 3 betting me 29% of the time, while my other opponents generally hovered around 15%.
The tide turned both ways during the match and Negreanu was up over 7 buy-ins at one point but Nanonoko fought back to grind out a small win.

In the matches I've seen, Negreanu has been playing very aggressively both pre and post flop especially in position. I didn't analyze the hands against others but versus bmwmcoupe Negreanu was a lot more aggressive than him preflop and even more so post flop. 2eazy played very passively, especially out of position. The last half of the match he was barely even c-betting the flop in position. Might have been disheartened after having lost so much already.

When Will Negreanu Take On Isildur1?

He hasn't said for sure but it's only a matter of time. My guess is it will be some time before the end of the year. If his momentum keeps up my guess is he might take on the challenge in the next couple of months.

Negreanu has been doing well 4 tabling NLHE HU so far but Blom is a different kind of heads up player that's very aggressive and has the balls to play 8 tables against Phil Ivey, Patrick Antonius and Tom 'Durrrr' Dwan all at the same time.

Playing against Nanonoko a few more times as well as other players that are willing to 3, 4 and 5 bet wider pre-flop and play more aggressively on the river, willing to check-raise shove anywhere from thin to the nuts and even total air, might be good practice.

Maybe players like Phil Galfond or Daniel Cates will be willing to drop down in stakes to help Negreanu get ready?

At this point I can't imagine him not taking part in the Superstar Showdown, it's just a matter of time. When it does happen it's going to be worth watching.

Do you think Negreanu will have the stones to take on Isildur1 and if he does will he have a chance or just get eaten alive by the Swede?